Game of Thrones is one of the world’s most popular television series, but it sends a negative message for the potential of a female presidency in the United States.
The world watched as Daenerys Targaryen first shared flames with three dragon eggs and hatched them. In the first episode of season one, Jon Snow (Aegon Targaryen) teaches Brandon Stark how to shoot a bow and arrow until Arya Stark shoots it dead center from behind him and Bran chases her around the Winterfell courtyard, the rest of the present Starks laughing together.
The Red Wedding, the Battle of the Bastards, The Battle of the Blackwater, Battle of Winterfell (season 8), and the final destruction of King’s Landing all left the world in shock. The show’s representation of women and minorities left something to be desired, but there is no denying that the show defined a generation — a culture, from 2009 until its end.
While there are numerous complaints from fans and critics alike about the final season, the timing could not be any more coincidental as the United States’ presidential candidates garner support for the 2020 election. An important way for the candidates to connect with supporters was to predict who would win the Game of Thrones. However, the politics of Game of Thrones dives deeper than predictions and complaints.
Reality, Fiction, and Female Leaders
Brandon “Bran the Broken” Stark certainly lives up to the hype, but many felt there was something more to be desired, a Queen. Daenerys’ downfall, to many, describes a trend in a society unable to accept a strong female leader.
While Cersei maintains her reign from Tommen’s death until the second to last episode, she is also afflicted with the madness of power. The only reason that Cersei even inherits the throne in the first place is because all of her husband’s male heirs die. Many viewers had trouble with the brashness of Danny’s downfall. After all of her brothers die, it seems as though she is the next in line to rule Westeros. All of a sudden, after Jon tells her he is Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, she feels the loss of power as acutely as the loss of one of her dragons. She worked harder than Jon for the throne, actually wanted the throne. Simply because he was male, had the right lineage, and won admiration across a single realm while she fought halfway across the world, in Westeros tradition he was still considered the rightful leader.
It is a story that vaguely resembles the 2016 election and still tugs on the inherent sexism of society, which is an important message for female democratic hopefuls in the 2020 United States Presidential Election.
Despite Dany’s strong message of world freedom from tyranny, in the end the power of the Iron Throne ruined her as it ruined Cersei. A cycle of stigma women in the 2020 presidential race will have to break is that somehow woman are not deemed fit to lead. The statistics surrounding the lack of women in leadership suggest that the “stay in the kitchen” narrative might be more prominent than people realize.
There’s no lack of women who can fill leadership positions, rather a gender bias against a woman’s ability to lead. While there are multiple other roles women play in Game of Thrones — Arya’s role as the master assassin/ninja, Sansa’s role as the broken leader, Yara’s role as a survivor, Brienne’s role as a knight, Missandei’s role as a loyal supporter and friend, and Catelyn’s role as a mother, among others — it is made very clear throughout the series that the Iron Throne is meant for men. Daenerys in earlier seasons is portrayed as a little girl who has some success but does not understand Westeros.
Throughout the series, Cersei is portrayed as a shameful woman and a drunk. While Sansa and Yara both hold powerful positions on a local level, broad recognition seems something the women are unable to achieve within Westeros or the United States.
Women have some representation in the house, senate, and at the local government level, but cannot quite make it to the presidency. Clinton came close in 2016, but it seems that the Presidency of the United States is the Iron Throne.
The Future of Women in Politics
The reasons behind this are complex and historical, but world history also suggests that women can lead successfully: Ana Brnabic (prime minister of Serbia), Jacinda Ardern (prime minister of New Zealand), Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (president of Croatia), Dalia Grybauskaite (president of Lithuania), Sheikh Hasina (prime minister of Bangladesh), Hilda Heine (president of the Marshall Islands), Katrín Jakobsdóttir (prime minister of Iceland), Kersti Kaljulaid, (president of Estonia), Saara Kuugongelwa (prime minister of Namibia), Angela Merkel (chancellor of Germany), Erna Solberg (prime minister of Norway), Laimdota Straujuma (prime minister of Latvia), Paula-Mae Weekes (president of Trinidad and Tobago), Sahle-Work Zewde (president of Ethiopia), and Salome Zourabichvili (president of Georgia (country)) are current female leaders out of the 195 countries and independent states around the world. While this list is promising for the future of politics, there is still a long way to go in countries who are yet to see their first female head of state.
In the United States right now, Biden and Sanders hold the top spots in the 2020 democratic race along with Trump and Weld the only confirmed contenders so far in the republican race. At this point, it seems like the 2020 female contenders are going to need some dragons and wildfire if they want to win.